(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers have found a separate species of sloth in a forest in Brazil with a head that looks like a huge coconut. Reedus reports.
The maned sloth, found in a small area of coastal forest in Brazil, was previously thought to be a single species. But it was found that the inhabitants of the northern jungle are genetically different from the southern animals.
The maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus) was first described in 1811, although British zoologist John Edward Gray claimed to have discovered a second species in 1850 called Bradypus crinitus. His claims were rejected, but new evidence proves that B. crinitus really exists.
To find conclusive evidence that Gray was right, the researchers conducted a morphological analysis of 24 maned sloths from various areas of Sergipe, Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo.
Compared to their counterparts from the north, sloths from the south have flatter skulls, round jaws, and broad cheekbones.
Further genetic analysis of 55 maned sloths found “significant genetic divergence” between groups from north and south.
Scientists have identified 86 mutational steps separating the two populations. Experts estimate that this divergence between species occurred approximately 4.24 million years ago.
So it was genetically proven that not one, but two species of sloths live in the Brazilian forests, which prefer the north and south, respectively.
The sloth habitat is divided by the Rio Doche, which still acts as a dividing line between related species of mice and capuchin monkeys.
This separation was exacerbated by deforestation in the Atlantic forest, which also limited the transfer of genes between different populations. Therefore, both species of sloths may soon be classified as “endangered”.
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